Even though I surprisingly loved last month’s Turbo movie, about a speedy super-snail who dreams of competing in the Indianapolis 500, my tolerance for computer animated racing films is about tapped-out for the 2013 film year. That said, even though the new Disney film Planes suffers from a slight case “jet-lag,” it’s not a completely wasted trip.
You can probably guess the premise of Planes, the story of an unlikely hero who manages to get into a race with the big boys and despite overwhelming obstacles he ekes out a win at the last second. It’s a story as old as “The Little Engine that Could,” just replace the train with a plane and add some better animation.
Speaking of animation, this film runs the gambit quality wise. Some of it is outstanding, but it has equal parts of just dull gray cars that lack any detail at all. It’s not surprising that this movie, which is set in the “World of Cars” film universe, was originally a straight-to-video venture that was bumped up to a full theatrical release. You can pretty easily tell which parts were animated after that upgrade decision was made.
Our underdog is Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook), a lowly crop-duster plane who spends his days spreading manure around a field and daydreaming about competing in the big “Wings Around the Globe” airplane rally. He just misses the cut during the contest’s time trials, but when one of the finalists is caught using performance-enhancing fuel, Dusty finds himself in the race.
The little crop-duster’s friends, including Chug the fuel truck (Brad Garrett), Dottie the forklift (Teri Hatcher) and Skipper (Stacy Keach) the crusty old Navy fighter plane, all help Dusty enhance his skills for the big race and try to help him overcome his fear of heights (yes, he’s a plane with a fear of flying too high.)
The other international racers in the Wings Around the Globe competition include stereotypical plane personifications from Mexico (Carlos Alazraqui), India (Priyanka Chopra) and Great Britain (John Cleese), among others. If you are a Top Gun fan then you’ll probably appreciate the voice appearances of Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards as the Navy jet fighters Bravo and Echo.
If you are an aircraft aficionado, which I am not, you might also enjoy that reportedly a lot of attention to detail has been paid in converting actual planes into the cartoon versions you see in this film. So if you know your “DH 88 Comet“ from your “F4U Corsair,” then you’re likely to have a blast at this movie.
There is not a lot here to keep most adults engaged, but for me the high points in this film were the animated aerial acrobatic sequences, which are amazingly rendered and exciting to watch, and I also enjoyed the sequences onboard the “USS Flysenhower” aircraft carrier and the WWII battle flashback that Skipper recounts. I felt everything else was just “kids’ stuff,” which is fine for a “kids’ film” but doesn’t hold up to movies like Turbo or Despicable Me 2, which are equally entertaining for adults.
Planes is directed by Klay Hall, who is mostly known for his television work, and the film includes additional voice talent by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Cedric the Entertainer, Roger Craig Smith, Sinbad, Gabriel Iglesias and Brent Musburger as various other animated car and plane characters.
I’m not a big fan of the Cars movies either and with the exception of robots I prefer that inanimate objects remain that way. It takes Planes a while to get going, but once it reaches full speed it’s a fairly smooth ride with only minor turbulence. In the end it’s about as exciting as a trip to the airport and if you skip it altogether, you haven’t missed much. Grade: 5/10